Vive L'Amour

1994, NR, 120 min. Directed by Tsai Ming-liang. Starring Yang Kuei-mei, Chen Chao-jung, Lee Kang-sheng.

REVIEWED By Alison Macor, Fri., Jan. 24, 1997

Vive L’Amour is the latest film from Taiwan-based director Tsai Ming-liang, whose debut Rebels of the Neon God established him as one of the up-and-coming talents of the Second Wave of Taiwan’s New Cinema movement. Heralded for his ability to capture on film the alienation that has slowly overtaken modern society, Tsai brings this same sort of aesthetic to Vive L’Amour, recipient of the Golden Lion award at the 1994 Venice Film Festival. The film conveys its themes in the subtlest of tones - a subtlety whose impact, I must admit, often eluded me. Vive L’Amour spends its first 25 minutes without a single line of dialogue as it introduces its three main characters. First there is Hsiao-kang (Lee), a sensitive and timid young crematorium container salesman who finds himself with access to a vacant luxury apartment in downtown Taipei. This apartment is one of the properties that May (Yang), a real estate agent, handles for her boss. Occasionally, she uses the apartment for assignations with Ah-jung (Chen), a black market importer-exporter whom she picks up one night after work. Wordlessly, May and Ah-jung undress and engage in vigorous sex as Hsiao-kang hides in the next room. Days later, Ah-jung returns to the apartment and lets himself in with a key stolen from May. When Ah-jung and Hsiao-kang discover one another hiding out in the same apartment, they reach an arrangement in which each man lives warily with the other, dodging May and the possibility of discovery. Hsiao-kang’s situation becomes slightly more complicated as he becomes attracted to the easygoing Ah-jung. As the film unfolds, it tries to suggest the alienation with which each character deals on a daily basis. Little dialogue and the absence of a soundtrack heighten the feelings of emptiness and aimlessness that seem to inhabit these characters. Liao Pen-jung’s pointedly washed-out cinematography also contributes to Vive L’Amour’s sense of disconnectedness. Some scenes convey a languid eroticism, but even this eroticism appears soulless and empty. If anything, sexual encounters serve to distance the characters rather than create even a temporary intimacy. In this manner, director Tsai achieves his goal of depicting the alienation of contemporary Taipei culture. The question is whether or not viewers will remain transfixed through a film that utilizes every cinematic device to convey this alienation.

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More Tsai Ming-liang Films
I Don't Want to Sleep Alone
Although Tsai Ming-Liang's I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone is nearly wordless and slow moving, the film’s characters are compelling and its pace hypnotic. (AFS@Dobie)

Marjorie Baumgarten, July 20, 2007

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Vive L'Amour, Tsai Ming-liang, Yang Kuei-mei, Chen Chao-jung, Lee Kang-sheng

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